ESO: A Universe Aglow

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bystander
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ESO: A Universe Aglow

Post by bystander » Mon Oct 01, 2018 10:22 pm

A Universe Aglow
ESO Science Release | VLT | MUSE | 2018 Oct 01

MUSE spectrograph reveals that nearly the entire sky in the early Universe is glowing with Lyman-alpha emission

Deep observations made with the MUSE spectrograph on ESO’s Very Large Telescope have uncovered vast cosmic reservoirs of atomic hydrogen surrounding distant galaxies. The exquisite sensitivity of MUSE allowed for direct observations of dim clouds of hydrogen glowing with Lyman-alpha emission in the early Universe — revealing that almost the whole night sky is invisibly aglow.

An unexpected abundance of Lyman-alpha emission in the Hubble Ultra Deep Field (HUDF) region was discovered by an international team of astronomers using the MUSE instrument on ESO’s Very Large Telescope (VLT). The discovered emission covers nearly the entire field of view — leading the team to extrapolate that almost all of the sky is invisibly glowing with Lyman-alpha emission from the early Universe [1].

Astronomers have long been accustomed to the sky looking wildly different at different wavelengths, but the extent of the observed Lyman-alpha emission was still surprising. “Realising that the whole sky glows in optical when observing the Lyman-alpha emission from distant clouds of hydrogen was a literally eye-opening surprise,” explained Kasper Borello Schmidt, a member of the team of astronomers behind this result.

“This is a great discovery!” added team member Themiya Nanayakkara. “Next time you look at the moonless night sky and see the stars, imagine the unseen glow of hydrogen: the first building block of the universe, illuminating the whole night sky.” ...

Nearly all the sky is covered by Lyman-α emission around high-redshift galaxies ~ L. Wisotzki et al
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